Don't take away your own liberties

  Difficulty: Introductory   Keywords: Tactics

A common mistake in Go, is taking away your own liberties.

Example 1


White has taken territory and Black some influence. It is tempting to reduce White's territory by pushing at a.


However, after W2, Black's liberties are reduced from six to five.
As his formation is still open to invasion, reduction or attack, losing a liberty is too high a cost compared to White's cost of 1 point at this stage.

Furthermore, this move loses a ko-threat, but that was not the issue here.

Example 2


White's stone has four liberties.


A vain attempt to cut the bamboo joint: White's stones now have three liberties.
This will always be bad (exception if played as a ko threat)

Almost as bad as losing a liberty, is playing but not gaining any liberties.[1]

White disregards liberties  

The exchange W1 - B2 leaves White with three liberties: the same number as she had before. This is one of the ideas behind hane at the head.

White gains liberties  

After W1 here, whatever Black does, she (White) will end up with at least four liberties for her group.

Example 3[2]

A bad push  

Black pushes at B1 to create weaknesses, but...

if black doesn't defend, then white can kill  

...because of shortage of liberties, he can no longer play a to make a second eye

A more complex situation where removing one's own liberties gives a bad result: Removing one's own liberties Example 1

This proverb or heuristic also is at the base of the proverb telling you to fill outside liberties first in a capturing race.

Comments on unambiguous correctness & teaching value


tderz: the two examples above are very good as a first instinct reaction ('gain liberties', 'stay ahead', 'play/avoid hane at the head of two'),

but do not necessarily show bad play:

White disregards liberties but cuts  

tderz: if White's intention is to cut at either W3 or a, then this might be the (only) way.

if the surroundings allow  

tderz: The exchange W1 - B2 leaves White with three liberties: the same number as she had before. This is one of the ideas behind hane at the head. -> if the surroundings allow and the situation fits, Black may be cut & in a bad/worse situation, as both only have 2 liberties.

White gains liberties  

tderz: this is espec. good & important if the direction square, triangle is the route for escape/attack.

tderz: this is not a perfect example in my view.

sente & a perfect wall  

tderz: W1 is sente once game is about 11 points/move (23/2) and Black needs to defend with B2.

reverse sente (1)  

tderz: Black's push at B1 can thus also be considered as a good reverse sente,
as it creates a weaknesses (of course, Black has to come back and defend).
Continuations could be a-b-c-d-e or c-(f, h or i) etc.

reverse sente (2)  

tderz: perhaps the white+circle goup is heavy now and on the left there are imponderabilities as a + b + c.
I certainly prefer defects in opponent's wall + split groups in gote over
being forced to accept a perfect wall in gote.

Don't take away your own liberties last edited by tderz on December 3, 2008 - 13:23
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